Mistakes in architecture of modernism Part 1

What was wrong Le Corbusier and his followers is explained through the story of five controversial modernist projects.

In the early XX century due to the rapid development of construction technologies, new principles of architectural design. Abandoning of traditional features and ornament, the architects focused on the tectonics in terms of functionality and form. It seemed that the new architecture will not only transform the city but will also help to build a new society, making happy thousands of people. Such social engagement and revolutionary paths have become a hallmark of schools and trends, which in the history of architecture unite with the term “modernism”.

Image result for "Plan Voisin"

Modernists always scolded. First, supporters of conservative, who believed that you can abandon the heritage of classical architecture. Then following modernist generation of architects: after the Second world war, they tried to soften the uncompromising and didactic tone of their teachers. Finally, the architects of the 1960s and ‘ 70s, years — by this time the world is tired of the monotony and uniformity of the international style.

Everything believed modernists questioned: the flight from history, a social experiment, typical residential construction, the self-sufficiency reinforced concrete structures, the enormity of the urban scale. The situation was compounded by the fact that life in new areas was not as happy as dreamed of by their creators. July 15, 1972, in 15 hours 32 minutes when he has blown up the first block of modernist residential district Pruett-Ago in the American city of St. Louis (see below), American architect and critic Charles Jencks stated “death of the new architecture”.

The tools of modernism are still in demand because it is rich, practical and convincing. For example, five projects were the most controversial in his heritage, try to understand if they are bugs modernist architects of the death of their ideas, or about anything else.

“Plan Voisin”, the project of reconstruction of the center of Paris (1925)

In 1920-e years, European architects have experienced a fear of the sprawling cities of the nineteenth century. They seemed close, immersed in the darkness, in the smoke of mills and factories filled with humming transport, the numerous old brick buildings that swallow the crowds. Modernists wanted to clear sick, decaying neighborhoods and create in their place new ones. At the International Congress of modern architecture, the mistakes of the past decided to fix with the functional zoning. His principle was formulated by the architect Le Corbusier: any city should be strictly divided into zones according to the main functions of the policy — production, housing, recreation and transport infrastructure.

For a few years before the creation of the Congress Corbusier presented to the public one of the most ambitious of its projects, the reconstruction plan of Paris. It was presented in the pavilion of the newspaper “Esprit Nouveau” at the International exhibition of modern decorative and industrial arts held in Paris in 1925. Corbusier emphasized that architecture and urban design of the new machine age are required to adapt to the needs of the machines to mimic machines. Therefore, for the financing, he turned to three leading engineering companies — “Peugeot”, “Citroen” and “Voisin”

but agreed only with the latter. So the project is called “Plan Voisin”.

Designing the “urban organism adapted to the new conditions of life generated by mechanization”.

Le Corbusier no regrets saying goodbye to the old quarters in Central Paris, on the right Bank of the Seine. Cleared an area of 240 acres he divided into residential and business center. The new area was represented by a regular grid of rectangular blocks (350-400 meters in length). The end-to-end width of the main Avenue was 120 meters (for example, this is the maximum width of the Leningrad Avenue), and crossing its streets, 50 and 80 meters. Most of the territory was occupied by highways, Parking lots, and large parks. In the center of each block stood a cross-shaped 50-story skyscraper. Building construction was given now that load that was previously carried thousands of residential and administrative buildings. Thus Le Corbusier was trying to remove the city from the earth and transferred to heaven.

However, the project proved too expensive and had too many opponents. The defenders of the traditional architectural values set by Le Corbusier the blame uncompromising break with tradition and its own history. The destruction of the past was accompanied by the destruction of all human, and architecture became the architecture for cars.

After the war, the ideas of functional zoning was used less dramatically, but with the same disregard for historical context. Only in the late 1960s — early 1970s, the situation changed. As one of the main critics of modernist urban planning, American journalist and activist Jane Jacobs, cities catastrophically began not to suffice of chaos, in which the focus of social life would rather shop a local dealer or a squat than a specially-designed office or leisure center.

Image result for Residential complex Prut-Ago, St. Louis, USA

Residential complex “Prut-Ago”, St. Louis, USA (1954-1955)

After the war, the housing problem was the main problem of European, and later American urban planning. Quick recovery (or increase) of the housing was possible only with the help of standard serial production and mass construction of any required norms and standards to calculate the cost of materials and labor. Modernism before the war rejected any kind of traditional facade decoration or ornament which was also very profitable economically.

Monotony and monotony of new residential areas immediately became the subject of public criticism. Psychologists and sociologists have pointed out that the living conditions in new areas impact on health and the human psyche almost worse than the conditions in a stuffy and cramped old quarters, which fought the modernists. People were important insight on your own home an exceptional place that guarantees the safety, reliability, the embodiment of his own “I”. “The contact person with a place and a place with space enclosed in housing”, — wrote in 1951, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Without a unique artistic solution, the diversity of the urban landscape and the topography of the districts, the citizens lost that essential identity.

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